BEIRUT

Lebanon News

The innocent lives lost in Tripoli’s battles

Gunmen ride atop a vehicle to protest Hasan’s killing.

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Jana Kamaleddine’s father had trouble paying his rent on his construction worker’s salary, but insisted on buying his 9-year-old daughter new clothes for the holiday.

Their shopping trip ended tragically – as Jana and her parents stepped out of a taxi last Sunday, a sniper shot Jana twice, instantly killing her.

A victim of the most recent round of fighting between the neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, Jana’s death has turned the street where she lived into a center for condolences and reminded the city of the many blameless victims who are caught up in the city’s violence.

In Jabal Mohsen, most residents are Alawite and tend to support Syrian President Bashar Assad. In Bab al-Tabbaneh, the predominantly-Sunni locals back the Syrian uprising. Although these neighborhoods often battle it out in the streets, Jana’s family crossed sectarian lines: her mother is Alawite and her father Sunni.

Ali Qawas, who lives near the family in Riva, on the outskirts of Bab al-Tabbaneh, said Jana’s father is still in shock and her mother weeps uncontrollably. He said that the clashes began when the three were out choosing Eid al-Adha clothes Sunday, and Jana was scared.

“She asked her parents if they could go home. Just before they got there, a sniper took her life.”

Qawas addressed himself “to the criminal who targeted this child.”

“Jana’s father is a Sunni and her mother is an Alawite, and in this neighborhood we don’t talk about sect. But I want to tell this criminal that she was an innocent child and I hope his conscience weighs on him,” he said.

The latest skirmishes between Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen were set off by the assassination of senior security official Brig. Gen. Wissam al-Hasan, and were quelled after a heavy Army deployment which included the installation of checkpoints across the city. Gunmen vanished from the streets and vehicles carrying men with guns pointed outward went into hiding within hours of the Army’s appearance.

But before troops took up positions, 10 people were dead and more than 50 had been injured. The latest truce is shaky, as have been the ones before it – there have been five rounds of fighting since the Syrian uprising began – and Tripoli’s residents are worried that violence could be sparked at any moment.

During this anxious calm, the families of the dead are mourning. Also killed Sunday was Adnan Farid, a father of 13. Farid was clearing up rubble from the last confrontations when he was shot twice in the chest.

He died four hours later in Tripoli’s Islamic Hospital.

According to Farid’s colleague, Adnan Mounjed, Farid also had difficulty providing for his large family.

Mounjed attacked the snipers for killing innocent people, who are often of low socioeconomic status given that poverty is rife in both Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen.

“I don’t understand the mindset of the criminal [who killed Farid],” said Mounjed. Farid’s only crime, he added, was doing his job – helping clear the city of the debris left by past armed scuffles.

He stressed that despite the sectarian conflict that Tripoli is gaining a reputation for, Farid and his colleagues at the municipality coexisted peacefully.

“The municipality is a mix of people from different sects, be they Alawites, Sunnis, or members of other sects,” Mounjed said. “We never notice the differences between us. On the contrary, we are like one family. Our only goal is to ensure a good life for our families.”

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 26, 2012, on page 4.

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